Historical Bookbinding Equipment
The museum collection focuses largely upon the innovations of the industrial revolution. See below for details and history on some of these pieces. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Called arming presses or blocking presses in England and embossing machines or stamping presses in America, these machines used heating irons to heat up a chase, and then a lever arrangement would bring it down and impress a design, often in gold, on to the book cover or spine. This is the oldest machine in our collection. An illustration of a Imperial Arming Press of a different design appears in Arnett’s Bibliopegia 1835.
American, W. O. Hickok and Sons, 20th century. Before mechanization, the lying press was the binder’s all-purpose mainstay piece of equipment, used for backing books, pressing textblocks, gilding edges, and, with its accessory the plough, for trimming the edges of books, cutting coverboard, and cutting reams of paper to size. The design was developed sometime in the fifteenth century, was refined in the eighteenth century, and has remained largely unchanged (and in occasional use) to the present day.
The guillotine paper cutter would cut an entire stack of paper in one stroke. It was invented in America in the 1820s. It spread slowly from print shops and paper mills to binderies, replacing the plough for edge-trimming cheap, edition, and eventually for fine work.
W. O. Hickok and Sons. Described in our Gane Brothers catalogue as a Gauge Table Shears, style “C” example shows an improved foot pedal design over the style “B” illustrated in the 1869 Hickok catalogue. As casebinding became the norm bookbinders needed a tool to cut coverboard fast, square and consistent.
Rounding diminishes the impact of the swell caused by sewing and coupled with backing will help the book maintain its proper shape. Note the large wheel on this machine; it probably was run from a centralized power source and then later converted to use with its own motor.